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GP practices advised to cancel routine appointments to deal with strikes

GP practices are being advised to cancel routine work to ensure they are able to cope with an increase in unscheduled work during the junior doctor strikes.

It comes as NHS England advised patients to organise GP appointments for Tuesday 12 January if they thought they may need to see a doctor.

This is despite emergency services running as normal during the first of three days of planned industrial action by the BMA, with only elective care affected.

Dr Robert Morley, Birmingham LMC executive secretary and GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee chair, told Pulse he was ‘not surprised’ by NHS England’s advice.

He said: ‘Birmingham LMC has already advised its practices may need to rearrange routine work to accommodate unscheduled overspill.’

In advice sent to practices on 5 January seen by Pulse, the LMC wrote: ‘Possible suggestions that practice you might wish to consider in order to free up capacity for additional unscheduled care could include cancelling or reducing the volume of routine appointments and reducing or stopping any non-patient facing activities on the days in question.

‘Such actions would be entirely legitimate, would not put practices in breach their contracts and would not represent any illegal support for the industrial action on the part of practices.’

As tens of thousands of junior doctors prepared to go on strike across England, NHS England issued advice to patients to ’where possible… contact their GP, seek advice from their local pharmacist, call NHS 111 or consult the NHS Choices website’ or, in an emergency call 999 or go to A&E.

NHS England said people ’should be particularly attentive to their health over this period and look out for more vulnerable members of their families and communities, adding: ’GP services will be available as normal and we would encourage anyone who thinks they will need an appointment to organise this before industrial action begins.’

It added that ’everything possible is being done to ensure the provision of safe emergency care and to minimise the impact on patients’ but that it ’expresses regret that thousands of planned procedures would have to be rearranged and that people would have to wait longer for treatment as a result’.

Meanwhile, GP registrars are set to picket their training practices, as industrial action law states that individuals can only picket their employers. The BMA has said that practices should be aware they are not the subject of the protest.

The BMA has also responded to comments made to the Telegraph over the weekend by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said doctors are ‘basically saying ”we won’t be there for you in life-threatening situations”’ and that ‘some elements’ of the BMA were using the strikes ’as a political opportunity to bash a Tory Government that they hate’.

But the BMA said that the Government is ’faced with the current position – one that the BMA has sought to avoid throughout – because of a fundamental breakdown in trust with junior doctors, for which it is directly responsible’.

It said: ’How can junior doctors have confidence in a Government which, while giving public assurances, has been deliberately turning up the temperature behind the scenes in order to misrepresent them?

’No doctor takes industrial action lightly and we regret the disruption it will cause. However, junior doctors now feel that they have no option.’

Readers' comments (56)

  • Evil Trotskyite / Corbyn supporting Docs cause pop hero to pop his clogs ; the Sun can reveal. Daily Mail confirms Doc strike link to Bowie death. Daily Telegraph Shows greedy black leg GP's break juniors strike.

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  • I've just been at a home visit where Pt had BBC news on. It said

    "Your GP surgery will be in operation as normal" "make appointment to see your GP" etc

    Well, they obviously don't believe any of this will increase demand for GPs then? Some practices are training practice who will also loose their trainees too - whilst I appreciate they are supranumery, it doesn't take away the fact that there will be less appointment.

    I'm sick of all this - why do they believe primary care is a bottomless pit where anyone and everyone can have unlimited amount of appointments!

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  • Vinci Ho

    '... to bash a Tory government..'
    That is a very good new sound bite , Agent Hunt. In fact, you can use this for 'everything'!
    We have on the other hand, GP bashing way too long time.....

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  • Oi Juniors! You have done well to call strike action but can you please have the dignity to stop making out that it is all about patient safety. It isn't and nor need it be.
    Why shouldn't doctors fight for fair pay and conditions in their own right. Why do we always have to attach some bulls**t patient safety aspect to justify strike action.
    Stand up and be counted. Tell the truth. You are going to lose public support quite quickly as soon as the strike bites- it goes without saying, so do not become dependent on this support. Play hardball and play it really hard. We doctors are in demand and we hold the real power if we are prepared to use it.

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  • To Anonymous | GP Partner11 Jan 2016 2:07pm
    I'm trying to work out if you were asking a rhetorical question when you wrote "why do they believe primary care is a bottomless pit where anyone and everyone can have unlimited amount of appointments!"

    Just in case of any doubt and for clarity GMS, PMS and APMS are block contracts. In other words, when you signed your toxic contract you agreed to be that bottomless pit.

    Ditch the contract comrades!

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  • 2:13pm - completely agree. There is a conscious downplaying of our salary as well. Only a tiny minority of jobs are unbanded, and yet the basic rate is the commonly cited salary. It'd take a Tory politician two minutes to do a quick check and realise most junior docs are paid 40k and make us look like liars. It's utterly ridiculous that we have to paint ourselves as martyrs, striking for patient care, when actually, had the pay element been taken out of the new contracts, most docs wouldn't care. Some would even welcome the longer hours as an opportunity for better training (surgeons, orthopods etc).

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  • So dishonest - the fact that there is emergency cover should tell everyone they are lying. this is just DH spin to try to discredit the strike.

    Time to hand the contract in all. Simple steps:
    - Form limited company
    - Subcontract your GMS to it
    - Hand back GMS contract once your staff have TUPE'd.
    - Carry on as private or wind it down.

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  • Emergency care is unaffected so are they scaremongering or really that dense?

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  • This makes no sense at all. It's only the juniors going on strike, and okay they do most of the work but there will still be consultants and nurses there. It's mostly elective procedures and clinics that have been cancelled or curtailed.

    I see no reason why anyone should be particularly attentive to their health or the health of others on a strike day compared with the day before or after.

    What a lot of tommyrot!

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  • So the Junior Doctors are on going on strike, I wonder how many GP practices will open up extra appointments to help deal with this situation, probably not many.

    However on another note normally the people who are doing the moaning on are probably those GPs who do the very bare minimum so yet once again its the patient who suffers which ever way you look at it

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